Australians back MRFF investment

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Australians overwhelmingly support government investment in the $20 billion Medical Research Future fund and use the internet to check medical advice, according to a new poll commissioned by Research Australia.

The national annual poll of 1,040 Australian adults is in its 14th year and was conducted by Roy Morgan Research in late May and early June.

It found 87 per cent of respondents support the MRFF with almost four-in-five (78 per cent) believing the investment will lead to better health outcomes.

The MRFF was announced in the 2014-15 Budget as a $20 billion endowment, funded through a raft of health savings measures. Government has already committed the first investment under the MRFF, $250 million to the Biomedical Translation Fund, with annual disbursements of $1 billion forecast for early next decade.

“It is clear there is significant support for the Medical Research Future Fund and Australians want to see it become a reality,” said Research Australia CEO Nadia Levin.

“The MRFF will make an enormous difference to the health of Australians and the health of our economy, and people realise that and the contribution of medical research."

Almost nine-in-ten (88 per cent) respondents rated ‘basing healthcare on the best and most recent research’ as key to improving the health system, compared to reducing waiting times in emergency departments (80 per cent) and more doctors in regional areas (78 per cent).

In addition, health and medical research is ‘very’ and ‘extremely’ important to making discoveries about human health and disease (85 per cent), and turning discoveries into new drugs and treatments (84 per cent).

“The community recognises medical research is paramount to improving health outcomes and want to see medical breakthroughs brought from the laboratory into hospitals and medical clinics.

“They see stories about potential medical breakthroughs and new hope on their TVs – and they want to then see that reflected in their hospitals and doctor’s surgeries as soon as possible.

“The MRFF is a key to bridging this gap, providing new therapies, treatments, drugs and devices that will directly benefit Australians,” added Ms Levin.

The research also shows the impact of the internet on health. Of the 89 per cent of Australians who reported consulting a doctor in the past year, almost three quarters (73 per cent) used the internet to research something their doctor had told them.

Just over one-in-five (21 per cent) reported their doctor suggested a website they could find more information. Only one-in-ten asked a doctor to suggest a website.

The collection and sharing of personal health information is also an emerging consideration for Australians, according to the survey.

One-in-five Australians (19 per cent) say they use an activity tracking device daily or nearly daily to track their activity. The majority of these, around three quarters, representing around 14 per cent of the adult population, would share their data for the purposes of research if they could not be individually identified.